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Hawkwind's end-of-the-'70s incarnation heard on PXR5 was the last to feature vocalist/poet Bob Calvert alongside fellow veterans Simon House, Simon King, and, of course, Dave Brock. It is also the last in the sequence of brittle, pop-inflected records the band launched with Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music. But what farewells it contained. The opening "Death Trap," the ruminations of a doomed race car driver, kicks the album off with an explosion of energy and excitement that is positively punkish in its intensity. More than any of their own contemporaries, Hawkwind both understood and allowed themselves to absorb the energies of new wave, and only a faint unease about the band's supposed hippie leanings prevented them from linking with the Stooges, the New York Dolls, and the Velvet Underground in the pantheon of punky godfathers. The atmospherically drifting "High Rise," too, packs a certain fashionability, dwelling upon the rigors of life atop the towering concrete rabbit hutches that were springing up over the nation's cities, and haunting listeners with one of the most anthemic choruses in the entire Hawkwind canon. But traditional Hawkwind themes are not overlooked. "Uncle Sam's on Mars," while not a patch on the live versions of the day, is a throbbing and deeply spacy return to Space Ritual pastures, and the roughshod "Infinity" could have slipped out of In Seach of Space. Compared with the albums that preceded it, PXR5 is not an all-out classic -- indeed, at the time of release, it drew more attention for a sleeve design that depicted the wrong way of wiring an electrical plug than for the music. But no best-of of the band's late-'70s output would be complete without at least half of PXR5 falling into contention, and "Death Trap" is worth even more than that.

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